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Full text of "Beethoven Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 69 in a Major: A Linear Analysis"

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Beethoven Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 69 in A Major: A Linear Analysis 

John A. Musick, Jr. 



A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of 
Requirements of the CSU Honors Program 



for Honors in the degree of 

Bachelor of Music 

in 

Performance, 

College of Arts and Letters, 

Columbus State University 



Thesis Advisor 



Committee Member 



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CSU Honors Program Director \^, 



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The Classical Sonata Form is not to be thought of in terms of the formal sections it can be 
broken into. Unlike other musical forms, the Sonata Form has less to do with its formal 
architecture and more to do with the linear progression and development of themes. Composers 
in this style did not approach the form in terms of the three sections it contains, though they did 
maintain these groups. There first needed to be an exposition where two contrasting themes, or 
keys, are presented. Next, there was a development where themes are broken down and several 
key areas are explored. The form concluded with a recapitulation, where the second theme is 
transposed to the first key area. While these sections are apparent, the Classical composers 
viewed the exposition, development, and recapitulation not in terms of their parts, but as a 
vehicle to propel their linear ideas'. 

This analytical approach helps explain how Haydn's monothematic Sonata style can be 
effective, a feat that eludes standard sectional analysis. The sectional approach generally focuses 
on reaching thematic concordance of key. Since Haydn's Sonatas generally do not have two 
themes, it is difficult to explain why he would use any formal structure at all to reach this 
concordance. The transposition of the first theme in the exposition to create the second theme 
does not create the drama associated with the sectional approach. This lack of conflict 
diminishes the importance of resolution that the sectional approach requires. Haydn's music is 
not based on the destination, and therefore is not explained by its progressing sections; instead, it 
can only be appreciated in terms of the journey, usually emphasizing motivic permutations and 
harmonic progressions. 

Though the other Classical composers did use contrasting themes, it should still be 
stressed that a greater understanding of their music can be gained through an analysis of the 
entire linear journey as a whole, not as an episodic approach of conflict moving through extreme 



1 Rosen. Charles. The Classical Style. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1972. 



harmonic tension to resolution. This linear approach requires more nuance than the standard 
sectional view, but in return it offers more insight. The pinnacle of composing in this style is 
reached in what is known as Beethoven's "Heroic Period," where the entire Sonata Form finds 
its origins in the opening phrase, and the resolution that is found has to deal with the opening 
phrase rather than the contrasting key areas. The Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 69 in A 
Major is a perfect example of this style. 

Beethoven's "Heroic Period" is rooted historically in his writing of the Heiligenstadt 
Testament in 1802, and his affection for Napoleon Bonaparte, which climaxed just before the 
publishing of his Third Symphony in 1804" . The Heiligenstadt Testament marked an important 
personal triumph over adversity with the decision to continue to create music despite his almost 
complete deafness. Napoleon, to Beethoven, was an ideal example of a self-made man, a 
Romantic hero, for Beethoven to revere and try to imitate in the musical world. Though 
Beethoven quickly became disenfranchised with Napoleon, the idea of such a man still resonated 
deeply with him. His music from this time reflects the idea of a heroic individual triumphing 
over adversity by using linear progression through the Sonata Form. The A Major Sonata (1808) 
is written in this vein. 

The opening of this sonata is a presentation of the first theme in the solo cello line (Fig. 
1). This melody is almost completely without discord. The only pitches that detract from a 
purely dominant and tonic relation are 6 (Fs), that occurs on beat one of m. 2 and #4(Ds) that 
occurs on beat four of m. 5. These create the conflict, which must be resolved. This phrase is an 
announcement that the rest of the movement will be a journey through all of what 6 and s4 



Beethoven, Ludwig van. Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 69 in A Major. Munchen : G. Henle Verlag. 1984. 
Solomon, Maynard. Beethoven. New York: Shirmer Trade Books, 1998. 



imply, and that it will end when we understand their functions and how they will be changed to 
produce closure. 



Fig. 1 



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To prepare for what will emerge from 6 and s4 on this journey, a brief digression on the 
typical contexts, functions, and relations of these scale degrees would be helpful. Figure 2 
contains important theoretical ideas related to these scale degrees, which will be explored 
throughout the work. 



Fig. 2 



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A Major Scale 



12 3 4 5 6 
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F-sharp Tomcization Progression of 
minor of dominant fa 11m* thirds 



One of the most frequent and effective developmental motions is the mode change from 
major to minor. The major and natural minor scales are presented with scale degrees labeled for 
both. The difference of 6 is an important one. In the major mode, 6 tends to move away from 5, 



like the opening of the sonata. In the minor, however, the 6 tends to lead down to 5. The 



difference between the major and minor 6 will be an important point in the progression of the 
movement. 

Directly following these scales is the chord based on 6 in A major. This chord is the 

tonic chord in the relative minor, fs minor. The relative relationship is a strong one that will 
later allow Beethoven to smoothly expand 6 into a key area. 

The following two chords show s4, or Ds, in context. Typically s4 is used to tonicize the 
dominant chord, in this example B major leading to E major. This tonicizing function is what 
Beethoven will use throughout the movement to refer to and expand the idea of the s4. 

The final three chords in Fig. 2 show how 4 and 6 are related. The two are most easily 
linked as the basis for a falling-third progression. This progression will be used later to fuse 
these two discordant degrees, and create stable harmonic motion. 

After the opening phrase there is a fragmentation and continuation in the piano entrance 
and a repeat of this theme with a thicker texture. Following this is the first episode of the 
journey concerning 6, the Fs from the opening phrase. 

Typically, the modal difference between major and minor is thought of in terms of 3. In 
the bridge to the second theme, however, Beethoven uses the more dramatic motion of the minor 
6 to 5(Fn to E) to change modes (Fig. 3). Already, in the very first passage after the opening 

theme, Beethoven starts to develop the first discordant tone from the first theme, 6. 



Fig. 3 



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Beethoven continues the minor mode by modulating from A minor to E minor. Craftily, 
before he cadences and moves into the second theme, he makes a quick reference to the s4 by 
using tonicizing leading tones, which perform the essential function of s4 (Fig. 4). 



Fig. 4 



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This bridge is coming to an obvious close with a half-cadence in E minor. This almost 
sets up the second theme, but the mode is wrong, because, according to the form, the second key 
area needs to be in major. Beethoven makes the modulation back to the major mode through the 
use of 6 and s4. After the cadence of this bridge, Beethoven corrects the key by adding a short 
tag. In this tag, Beethoven reduces the melodic material to three notes: 5 of E minor (B), 6 of E 
minor (Cn), and s4 in E minor (As) and uses them to alter the mode back to major. By changing 
6 from minor to major (Cn to Cs) Beethoven sets up the second theme in the proper mode (Fig. 



5). 



Fig. 5 



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In the second theme, Beethoven again makes small suggestions through the tension and 
resolution of 6 to 5 and the tonicization of secondary dominant chords. However, these are 
insignificant in comparison to what directly follows this theme. In the bridge to the closing 
theme (Fig. 6), Beethoven introduces a falling-third progression. This is a link between 6 and 4 4 
because they are related by a falling third, a strong progressive motion. These measures 
foreshadow the resolution that will come from these two notes. 



Scale degree four in this context is natural, not sharp. Though it is not the same tone from the opening phrase, the 
reference is clearly to s4 from the opening phrase. This quality change is similar to the major/minor quality change 
of 6 in Fig. 3. 



Fig. 6 



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This leads into the closing theme in the dominant key. The heroic closing theme propels 
the ideas of 6 and s4 by climaxing on a tonicized vi chord, now Cs minor (Fig. 7). This closing 
theme integrates a foreshadowing triumph over the tension created in the opening, while at the 
same emphasizing the tension that is yet to be resolved. 



Fig. 7 




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The ending transition in the exposition is preceded by a tonicized 6 (Cs), which is 

emphasized with a trill and a sforzado. This is a single-measure synopsis of the exposition. 
Directly following is a less abrasive summary using a modified version of the first theme. Here, 
the opening interval of this phrase is a sixth instead of a fifth, referring to 6 from the opening 
phrase. Also, the strong beats in the second and fourth bars are used to tonicize the chord, 
referring to the s4. As an antithesis to the s4, Beethoven closes the exposition by moving 



toward the flat side of the circle of fifths through lowering 4s. In the descending passage that 



leads to the repeat of the exposition, Beethoven first lowers As to An to modulate from B major 
to E major. He then lowers Ds to Dn to modulate from E major to A major. Instead of acting as 
a leading tone to a key a fifth higher, the n4 works as a tendency tone that resolves down. Now 4 
functions to modulate down by a fifth in the same way the seventh of a dominant seventh chord 
typically leads to the third of the resulting tonic chord (Fig. 8). 



Fig. 8 



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What Beethoven does here is of utmost interest in regards to 6 and s4. As previously 
mentioned, in order to return to the exposition he lowers 4s. However, to go on to the 
development he pivots keys on the second 4 (Dn in A major) and transforms that D into the 
minor 6 of Fs minor. This sets up his already established relationship of minor 6 leading to 5, 
now D to Cs. This motion leads to a long dominant pedal on Cs, which establishes the relative 
minor as a key area. It is important to note that Beethoven pivots on a note that functions as both 
4 and 6, the two discordant tones from the opening (Fig. 9). 



Fig. 9 



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The development is put into motion with this long pedal Cs. On top of the pedal are 
quotations from the first theme and the bridge to the second theme. This dominant pedal 
eventually finds its resolution in Fs minor, and this becomes the main key of the development. 
Fs minor has a special significance in terms of 6 from the opening. This is the key based on the 
Fs in m. 2. Beethoven has expanded 6 from a note in the first phrase to a key area in the 
development. Within this key area he creates a sequenced Sturm und Drang passage based on 
the consequent of the first phrase. On top of this melody, he employs rapid subdivision that 
outline and intensify the harmony. 

The texture becomes sparser and the dust settles as the development leads into a false 
recapitulation. Rather than making use of a strong retransition into the recapitulation, Beethoven 
returns to the opening melodic material but retains the key of the development. 



10 



The solo cello line starts the first theme pianissimo and in Fs minor. As the theme 
descends, Beethoven makes an important link between the two tension-causing scale degrees 
from the opening, 6 and 4. After a modified version of the theme is played in Fs minor, 
Beethoven modulates the theme to D major. He is employing a falling-third progression to relate 
the two ideas just before he reestablishes A major as the tonic (Fig. 10). 



Fig. 10 



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This is the most important moment in the movement. It serves as a chordal link between 
6 and 4 just before the recapitulation resolves them. What is more interesting though, is that 
even while Beethoven is relating these in a significant way, the linear progression of ideas does 
not halt. Instead, even within this context he makes an important foreshadowing alteration in the 
theme. The sixth degree undergoes a rhythmic change that will prove to be very significant later 
on. In the first presentation of this theme, the 6 is given emphasis largely by being longer than 
any other note in the melody. Here, Beethoven balances the rhythm to half notes, de- 
emphasizing the step away from dominant. 

After the false recapitulation, Beethoven returns to A major through a quick 
progression and begins the recapitulation. He makes sparingly few changes from the exposition 
beside the obligatory key change, making the second theme appear in the tonic key. The next 
point of interest, therefore, is how he ends the movement. 



II 



The recapitulation follows the same theme groups as the exposition, including the bridge 
that led to the repeat of the exposition. Now this bridge, because of its new key in the 
recapitulation, has been transposed from B major (V of the dominant) to E major (V of the 
tonic). Therefore, as he lowers a series of 4s, first Ds to Dn then Gs to Gn, he modulates to a 
key one fifth lower than tonic, D major (Fig. 11). In going to D major, or the IV chord here, 
Beethoven is preparing for the final resolution. This is an important motion that must be made 
before the movement can be completed, because it establishes the resolved 4 as a key based on D 
similar to how he established the discordant 6 as a key based on Fs in the development. 



Fig. 1 1 



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Beethoven has at this point altered these notes in every conceivable way and has 
expanded them into entire key areas. Now, these two ideas must be modified in the context of 
the first theme in a way that they do not create discord. Beethoven achieves this through 
harkening back to important parts of the journey for these two notes. 



12 



After modulating from D major back to A major, Beethoven writes one final iteration of 
the first theme, scoring it to be the most climactic point in the movement. With extensive 
doubling and a sempre fortissimo dynamic marking, he reminds the listener of the tension that 
will be resolved. 

Directly following this, the s4 is resolved by transposition. By transposing the last 
measure of the theme up by a fourth, Beethoven makes these notes lead to the tonic rather than 
the dominant (Fig. 12). Though he is using a different tendency tone, a parallel can be made to 
the bridge from the end of the exposition to the repeat. There, Beethoven used the n4 to 3 

motion to modulate. Here, he retains the s4, and transposes it to become 7 in the tonic key. 
Both effectively use one tone to create a circle of fifths modulation. 



Fig. 12 




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Thus, the issue of the s4 has been resolved through transposition. Still, however, there 
exists a problem from 6 (Fs) in the second measure of the theme. Beethoven resolves this in the 
coda. He does this discreetly by harkening back to the development where he changed 6 to a 
neighbor-tone. By making use of that rhythmic setting of a half note rather than the dotted-half 
note from the beginning, he removes jolting emphasis of that note and creates a more flowing 
line. It is also important to note that 4 in this phrase is natural instead of sharp (Fig. 13). 



13 



Fig. 13 



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Clearly, Beethoven conceptualizes the Sonata Form in a linear way, emphasizing the 
journey of the first phrase from its opening discord to its final resolution. His ideas flow through 
a three-part form, but the sections of the Sonata Form and the necessary harmonic motions 
within have little to do with Beethoven rhetoric. His ideas are not formed from sectional parts, 
and therefore a sectional analysis of them detracts from a true appreciation of his work. 



14 



Bibliography 
Agmon, Eytan. "The First Movement of Beethoven's Cello Sonata, Op. 69: The Opening 

Solo as a Structural and Motivic Source." The Journal of Musicology 16 ( 1998): 

394-409. 
Badura-Skoda, Paul. "A Tie Is a Tie Is a Tie: Reflections on Beethoven's Pairs of Tied 

Notes." Early Music 16 (1988): 84-88. 
Beethoven, Ludwig van. Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 69 in A Major. Munchen : G. Henle 

Verlag, 1984 
Cooper, Barry. The Beethoven Compendium. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996 
Forbes, Elliot, ed. Thayer's Life of Beethoven. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1967. 
Knight, Frida. Beethoven and the Age of Revolution. New York: International, 1973. 
Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven : studies in the creative process. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 

1992. 
Rosen, Charles. The Classical Style. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972. 
Solomon, Maynard. Beethoven. New York: Shirmer Trade Books, 1998. 



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